Dimension Data looking to plug gaps in Grand Tour squad for 2017

The transfer window is set to open in just over two months’ time and Dimension Data are already making plans for next season. The next two months will be key for the team as they look to plug the gaps in their Grand Tour line-up for 2017 with the aim of getting an African rider on the podium of a Grand Tour within three years.

The transfer season doesn’t officially open until August 1 but Dimension Data team manager Doug Ryder tells Cyclingnews that he’s already getting a lot of interest from WorldTour riders, particularly since the re-signing of Edvald Boasson Hagen last month. While he doesn’t name names, he believes that there is a nervousness in the peloton with teams such as Tinkoff without a new sponsor and IAM Cycling closing their doors, and that riders and managers are striking while the iron is hot.

“We’ve got so many. I’m amazed at the riders who want to leave some teams that you would think that they’re institutionalised in. Everyone is testing the market and testing the water,” team manager Ryder told Cyclingnews.

“We are looking for our stage racing team to step up but to bring on a Grand Tour winner is incredibly expensive and those guys are few and far between. Those are the discussions that are going on at the moment - who do we want to look for and who do we want to retain in the team and where should we be going. The Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia will show what gaps we have in stage races of that nature.”

Dimension Data have several riders that will be out of contract at the end of this season, including Tyler Farrar, Theo Bos and a number of their of their African riders. Tour de France stage winner Stephen Cummings, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Serge Pauwels, Merhawi Kudus, Mark Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel are all on the roster for 2017, however, and Ryder is keen to keep the status quo if he can.

“We’ve got lots of riders out of contract but we don’t like making changes, we want to knuckle down and support the guys we’ve got,” he explained. “When we bring riders into the team, we do it for a reason and we want to support them long-term. Many of our African riders are out of contract and we want to bed them down.”

Big changes are still afoot within the team with interim general manager Brian Smith leaving at the end of last month. Smith joined the team in 2014 as part of the drive to internationalise and he was integral to the signing of Mark Cavendish this season. Spending more time with his family was the primary factor in Smith’s decision with the team based in Italy while he still resides in the UK.

Smith hasn’t severed ties with the team completely and is playing a part in the team’s plans for the future. “We’re still chatting to each other now and again. He’s still super committed and loves and supports the team in a big way,” said Ryder.

“He’s still looking for riders, he’s always been good at scouting young talent and supporting us and that. He will keep looking for talent and try to support us going forward in that role that he did two years."

Ryder will now step in to fill Smith’s shoes in the team, with no plans to replace the former rider in the near future. Some restructuring may be possible but any decision on that will be made following the Tour de France. “He came in and filled in for us at an incredibly difficult time and we’re now pretty set. We can move forward and there’s nobody that’s going to come in on that role.”

Aiming for top 10 at the Giro d’Italia

For now, it is the Giro d’Italia that is the main focus of the team and a potential top 10 finish with Kanstantsin Siutsou. Ryder also hopes that the young Eritrean Merhawi Kudus can show something in the mountains. Siutsou is currently in ninth place overall after making it into the breakaway on Saturday’s queen stage.

Siutsou, who joined the team over the winter, has had one top 10 finish at the Giro d’Italia in the past. The Belarussian finished ninth at the 2011 race, bumped up from 10th following the removal of Alberto Contador as the race winner. With two very tough mountain stages to come, it will be a tough challenge and Siutsou may have to target the break once again.

“Maybe there is an opportunity for him to go and maintain a top 10, which would be the best opportunity for us, to get a top 10 with him. That’s a goal for him and it’s goal for us. He’s got full support here and let’s hope both him and Merhawi can do well in the big mountains,” said Ryder.

“If he does lose some time on a day then we will obviously try to get him into the breakaway and be more versatile. We’re quite flexible so we’ve got lots of opportunities for guys to do something. We’ll just take it day by day.”

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